Sunday, April 27, 2008

Madrid - Mediterranean Backpacking Trip - Day 2 (Part 2)

Arriving back at the apartment, we cramped into the tiny elevator together with a short, husky looking, balding Spanish man. As he leaves the elevator, he looks us in the eye, and says "Adiós!" in a fast, forceful manner. It sounded so different than what I had expected that I didn't even figure out what he said until Felix started imitating him after the doors closed again. I am always fascinated by the manner of speech in different cultures, as that way someone says something conveys a lot about their culture and their view of the world. Although the "Adiós!" did not have that sense of courtesy conveyed in North America, it sounded much more sincere and trustworthy.

Walking into the apartment, I flick the light switch. Nothing. We try another switch. Still nothing. For the next ten minutes, we run around the apartment trying various switches, but we still had no lights. I was mentally retracing through everything I did before leaving the apartment to figure out if it was something I did. In the end, we decide to leave a note on their door and hope we didn't break the electrical system in their apartment.

Before we leave, we step onto the enclosed balcony to take a quick view of the city. Among the drying clothes and other clutter on the balcony, we noticed a plant on a table. It was a plant about a metre tall with long stalks and thin, palmately compounded leaves with serrated edges. "Uh... is that...?" Felix says. We look at each other. "I think it is...." It was a young cannabis plant. Suddenly, I notice that the balcony was actually filled with the smell of cannabis, and that you can actually smell strong wafts of this distinct smell inside the apartment from time to time. I wonder how that fact had escaped me earlier. It was the first time we had been so close to a cannabis plant. I examined it. It was a beautiful plant, well formed, healthy, like a very well treated houseplant. On the leaves, you can see some of the shiny grey resin that can be rubbed off using your palm and then scraped off to make hashish. We would later find out that their friend had given them the cannabis plant. Their friend had given up on keeping the plant because his dog would find the plant and eat it, no matter where he hid it.

Leaving the apartment, we stick the note on the door. We decide to take a short walk around the old part of Madrid since we are located quite close to it. Using a map I obtained from the tourist information desk at the airport, we start walking to the Royal Palace, the first point of interest along our route. Walking up to a gate by the Palace, we realize that we were on the wrong side. It was a gate that opened into a wooded park with a long, straight tree-lined road. According to the map, the Palace was somewhere on the other side of the compound. Peering into the gate, a guard stopped us and directed us to go back and around to the other side.

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